An Orchestra Full of Stars

Doesn’t that phrase bring a romantic image to mind?… beautiful music under the stars on a moonlit summer night. What could be better?

Those words have a different meaning for an orchestra conductor, though. Kurt Masur, one of the great maestros the 20th century, the late music director of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, once said, “An orchestra full of stars can be a disaster.”

In the same way, choir leaders will say they could not have a worse day than to have a choir full of soloists.

The point is that sometimes cooperation makes better music than individuality.

We have lots of clichés and everyday sayings that make the same point, like “Too many chiefs, not enough Indians” and “too many cooks spoil the stew.”

This week your Jamestown Gazette invites everyone out to the Bemus Bay Pops where the music itself is the star every summer.

The oldest musical instrument ever discovered, however, was a solo instrument. It was a simple flute carved from a sliver of mammoth tusk, 42,000 years old and recently found in a German cave. Our ancestors played those flutes so long ago that Neanderthals still shared the Earth with us.

Symphony orchestras, by contrast, are just youngsters, historically speaking. They were invented only about 400 years ago in Italy. Until then, if folks sat down together to play musical instruments, they played whatever random assortment of pipes and drums and stringed things that happened to be at hand. Sometimes the best they could do was a befuddling concoction, rarely sounding the same twice, of solo versions of one song or another, at best more or less played together.

When it comes to symphony orchestras, it seems we’ve come a long, wonderful way in only a tiny sliver of our history.

But even an orchestra isn’t enough. Every orchestra needs an audience. Music speaks to the human heart and mind. Charles Hazlewood, a currently acclaimed British orchestra conductor, said, “Music is about communication, and the chemistry between an audience and the orchestra is absolutely essential; the performance does not exist in a bubble.”

So, there’s your good news. The Bemus Bay Pops has been a local favorite for decades. Even if you’ve been there before, please accept our invitation for a return engagement… it seems it won’t be much of an orchestra without you there.

“Music is a moral law,” Plato said long ago. “It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything.” And, “If music be the food of love, play on,” Shakespeare wisely added.

If an orchestra has nothing to say without an audience, the same must be true for your Jamestown Gazette… we’re who we are, The People’s Paper, only because you enjoy the read.

Walt Pickut